Chatting with Change Underground

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BY WAY OF ROME COMES BERLIN BASED ORNERY, THE ITALIAN ARTIST SITS DOWN WITH US TO TALK ABOUT HIS MUSICAL ROOTS, MOVING TO BERLIN, HIS LOST CRATE IMPRINT AND THE STORY BEHIND HIS NEW ‘FATE’ EP, OUT NOW ON FLEMCY MUSIC.

Hi Ornery, thanks for joining us today, tell us a bit about yourself, where are you living and how long have you been producing music and DJing?

Hi, thank you for having me! Always a pleasure doing an interview. I’m originally from Rome, Italy but I’ve been living in Berlin for almost three years now. I will say that I’ve been producing music for the majority of the last nine/ten years, although I wouldn’t categorize the first few years as “producing”, as one is more experimenting and figuring the basics out rather than really creating… DJing, instead, I’ve been doing it since I was a young kid and, although I took a short break from it at a certain point, I always had an enormous passion for it.

How did you discover electronic music and what led you down the path of wanting to be a DJ and producer? Where do your early influences lie?

I guess I discovered electronic music on the radio at first, and through mixed compilations second. I was always very curious about music in general, but when I discovered electronic music, techno and house specifically, I was hooked. That led me almost instantly to discover DJing: I wanted to know which tracks were produced by which artists, and which tracks worked well together and why. The discovery/curation aspect fascinated me immensely, and still does to this very day. All of that led me to discover clubs, almost naturally I would say. It actually all went down very quickly, probably in the space of a year.

As far as the producing part, that didn’t come into play only until a decade ago or so, as I said earlier. Being some sort of extension of DJing, I guess it’s something that, deeply inside, I always wanted to do, but never really tried. Once I did, I never looked back. Another addiction!

My very early influences, as far as sound, lie in the more progressive/melodic/trancey current of electronic music, and I guess you can hear that in what I make today. But I’ve always enjoyed and looked at both the softer, deeper end of the spectrum, as much as the harder, more intense one, and I still do.

How did growing up in Italy shape your path and sound as an artist?

Italy always had a thriving underground and mainstream scene when I was growing up, and it did inspire me immensely. From a “career-path” standpoint, not so much, as I’ve really started doing this professionally only when I moved out of it a few years ago; but stylistically I would say yes: a certain sense for melodies and atmospheres was a fundamental characteristic of that scene, and I guess I just absorbed it and incorporated it in my own music today.

You’re now based in Berlin, would you say it’s still the music capital of the world? And was that a factor in moving there?

In my eyes, I would say yes, today more than ever. There are also other places, of course, where music is central or where its popularity is growing exponentially, but in Berlin it’s really part of the fabric of the city, it’s very central on a human and economical standpoint.

I can’t say that it wasn’t a factor in me moving here, for sure it was. But, I kind of fell in love with the city since the very first time I’ve visited it a few years ago. There’s a certain energy, a certain atmosphere, a certain rhythm to it, which I really like and feel comfortable in. It’s a place of contrasts, transformations, and to me (and many others) it’s just special.

On the other hand, it’s extremely competitive, almost brutally competitive I would say, especially if you want to work in the music industry. That, of course, is the case for any big city and for any creative industry, but still: you have to be ready for it, bring your “A-game” on every aspect of your career, and stay on whatever path you’ve set for yourself. It’s very easy to get lost in! It’s not for everyone, but that’s perfectly fine.

How has living there affected your creativity?

I believe that everything that’s part of the city affects your creativity, and your music as a consequence: its darkness, its lights, the old&new, the solitude, the diversity, etc. etc. Naturally, I’m also influenced by what I hear in the clubs, as I’m a great student of the sound and of other artists. In the end, I try to take all of these elements in, make them part of my experience, and then I simply let the music come out.

Your productions always carry a great musical quality, not overt but subtle and very emotional, is this something you strive for in the studio and what do you want your music to convey to the listener?

Thanks for noticing it. It’s definitely something that I aim for when I’m in the studio and, giving the fact that I don’t have any real musical background, it’s also a thing that I feel I always have to improve on. So I try to create a painting that’s simple in its core, but with a lot of different color gradations around it.

It’s hard to define what would I want my music to convey. I firmly believe that music is extremely personal, and everyone hears it differently, no matter the style or genre. Some people will want to dance to it, some others will enjoy listening to it, some won’t like it at all. They’re all going to be touched in a different manner. I’m a deep, introverted and some say a little myste-rious person, but with a lot of energy, so probably my music carries some of these qualities, I guess.

You’ve got a new EP out this week on Flemcy Music, there is an interesting concept behind it, tell us about the inspiration for this project and how it ended up on the label.

Yes, the EP is called “Fate”, and it’s a 6-tracks effort, a bit on the high side for an EP. On one hand, I wanted to out-do myself: I’ve never done a 6-tracks EP, so I said let me try and achieve that. On the other hand, I recently (and randomly) had the chance to re-watch the classic TV Series “LOST” from a few years ago, and as I was finalizing the EP that got me thinking: “what if I make this EP my little tribute to the series, and at the same time making you feel LOST in my sound”? And so I did, naming the tracks after the six most important Dharma Stations that are on the island. Ok, hardcore fans will now say that there are other four minor stations, but I focused on the main six, plus I also absolutely loved their names. Who knows, the other stations may pop up as single tracks in some other releases in the future. The EP was months in the making, although the finishing part of it did accelerate in the last month or so… I sent the label some previews of what I was working on, the feedback was always very positive, so I just kept going.

Walk us through the production process on ‘Hydra’, which is quite a unique track. Is that a typical process for you or is every track a different journey in terms of the creative process?

“Hydra” is the third track that I’ve done in the EP. The track is built “from the top down”, like almost every other track of mine: a simple pluck, atmosphere, deep bass, arpeggio, stabby noises, abundance of fx, processing, and additional layers. Drums come in only later in the process. I would say that it’s both a typical track of mine, and at the same time it’s special: I think every track, or every session, is a different journey, a different challenge: that’s what excites me the most about music production.

Tell us a bit about your studio, what are some of your go to pieces of gear or software?

Well, I’m a big Maschine user, and I use Ableton Live as a main DAW. My favourite plugins come from the Arturia and U-he families and I’ve just started, slowly, adding little analog pieces to my setup: Korg, Roland, Dave Smith is what I’m interested in right now… Usual suspects! I try to use what I have to (almost) the maximum of its possibilities. Limitations are key! When I feel I reached some kind of tipping point, I add a new piece, either software or hardware, and try to maximize that one.

Flemcy Music has definitely become a comfortable home for you, what makes the label such a great place to release your music?

My first release on Flemcy (“Evolution”), and first ever release as a solo artist, was the label’s fourth. That should tell you everything already! Very simply, we’ve been growing together, and I’m proud to be an integral part of the sound of the label.

Of course, now there’s a personal connection with Jean-Pierre Lantieri, head and founder of the label, but as we always say: everything starts with the music, and that’s how it will always be.

Last but not least, I very much like the effort that the label has put in promoting itself and its artists, because it’s the same effort that I’ve put in my music, so that makes it a very comfortable, easy-to-work-with, home for me.

Talk to us about your Lost Crate imprint, what eventually led you to start it and what vision do you have for it?

My Lost Crate imprint started as a simple recording studio when I made the switch to do music full-time, with plans to add other pieces in the future. The label was, in fact, one of them, although I honestly didn’t have a specific plan for it in the very beginning, besides being free to release my own music whenever I wanted (which is possible even without a label today). So, although it has been a side project to my solo career, the label has slowly grown to the point that I have a good number of artists that I like sending me their music for me to check out and possibly release. The vision for the label is just to keep doing that: finding more interesting artists, helping them grow, create a collective identity around it. Brand-wise, the activity of the studio continues in full and it’s luckily growing constantly, plus I have plans to go into sound design and possibly, at some point, start organizing label nights, although that’s still a bit far in the future.

What advice would have for someone hoping to get signed to the label?

Just be as original as you can: send something that you would like to listen to, and/or play, that’s sonically good already, and that fits with the mood of the label. Research takes time, we all know it, but it’s easy to do these days, so invest some hours to see at what point you’re at before sending your stuff out.

When you finish a track or even an EP what is the thinking process behind deciding if you send them somewhere or release them on your own label?

I honestly always think of sending my music out first, even when I have no release commitments. I think if you grow enough as an artist, you can carry your label, and some of its artists, with you. As I said, the label has been more of a platform to discover new music so far and, although this may change at some point, it will continue to be that in the near future.

How much of an influence is music outside the electronic world on your own productions?

I couldn’t quantify it specifically, but I know it does. I listen to completely different genres of music every single day, and from different eras. I admire producers: gurus like Rick Rubin, or Dre. It’s hard to really “study” those people just from the music they’ve produced, but I’m inspired by their longevity, their ability to bring the best out of different artists, in different genres and from different eras, even if today’s music landscape is constantly changing at a very fast rate.

There are a lot of factors which affect the perception of an artist other than his music these days, social media for one, how much emphasis do you put on stuff like this? And what are your thoughts on the current state of the industry?

I think I’ve been putting the right amount of emphasis on it. It’s an important factor, whether we like it or not. Me personally, I try to use these tools to the best of my ability, compatibly with my time. If there’s a chance they’re gonna help me reach a wider audience, and positively engage with it, I’d like to take that chance. Of course there are negatives to it, but that’s the case for any mass communication tool.

On the other hand, if it wasn’t for music, I’m not so sure I would be so involved in social media and the likes: the flow of information is just unbearable. My thoughts on the industry is that … it’s extremely competitive! As I said before, you have to be patient, consistent, and really believe in yourself. Yeah, it’s been said thousands of times, but it’s 100% the truth.

What are the biggest challenges you face as an artist in the industry right now?

Being an artist, a manager, a booking agent, a pr agent, a label head, a marketing manager, and a few other things, all at the same time. That’s the biggest challenge. Finding that balance, to be focused on what still matters the most, which is the music (at least to me), is sometimes difficult. Of course, whenever you get to the point that you can “outsource” some of the non-musical ones, that means things are moving in the right direction. But it’s still a beautiful and crazy ride, and I’m lucky I get to do it.

What have been some of your biggest tracks to play in 2018 so far?

Hard (but great) question! There’s so much great music out there, it’s difficult to choose some-times… I will name three tracks that stood out for me, and I will stick to a style that’s close to mine: “Serpent” by Patrice Baumel, “Umar” by Jobe & Soul Button, and “Sequence 01” by Adana Twins. Great on the dance floor, great to listen to. Three huge anthems for me.

Of my own productions, “Sleepwalker” on Flemcy is the track that has received more support and has been played around the most, and I’m very proud of it. “Hydra” from the upcoming EP seems to be receiving the same positive feedback, so that’s a good sign.

What was the last physical release you purchased? And can you remember the first?

I’ve been buying a few old albums on vinyl lately, so the latest release I’ve purchased is a Dire Straits album, “Brothers In Arms”. The first, ever, physical release that I’ve purchased is, incidentally, Robert Miles’ “Children”, which I still hold dear to this very day. Fate, I guess…

Tell us what’s next, what does the remainder of 2018 and early 2019 hold for you?

Well, the most imminent stuff is the “Fate” release, which I’m very excited about; then probably another solo EP; and a few remixes for some of the labels I usually work with… Before the end of the year, there’s also going to be a VA to celebrate my Lost Crate imprint’s 10th release (first time I announce it publicly!): it will mostly be artists who’ve released on the label, and that accompanied me in this crazy ride. After that, there are a few cool collaborations in the works that you’re probably going to hear in the first part of next year, plus another solo release of mine that’s going to explore my “harder” side.

One goal for next year is to fully develop a live set, but that’s still in the “alpha” stage, so there’s still going to be a lot of figuring out to do before I bring it out in public.

‘Fate’ is out now on Flemcy Music, you can purchase the release: here